Treat MiFID II as an opportunity for deeper engagement

Craig Marks describes how the IR team at AstraZeneca is preparing itself for the regulatory changes and taking a positive view of the chance to improve its IR operations.

Well, it’s been at least one minute since the last e-mail on MIFID II. According to a number of recent reports, even Michael Gove, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, was caught recently talking about MIFID II as he tried recently to impress cabinet colleagues in an audition for the part of chancellor of the exchequer. 

But like investment banks, the buy side and IROs, cabinet ministers can’t fully predict the likely impact and the timing of that impact. 

Tremendous opportunity
At AstraZeneca, we’re making sure our IR programme is as MIFID-proof as we can make it. But it’s actually more than that. We’re treating it as a real opportunity to engage further and deeper with the market and provide an improved customer service. We work hard today at making sure the larger institutions and the specialists get a great service, but what excites us is the prospect of us extending this service more often to generalists and the smaller investors. 
We’ve already started this journey, and are increasingly going to see these kinds of investors at their offices so that we see a team of people, rather than one representative at a group lunch. The feedback so far on this proactive approach has been great. As AstraZeneca and the sector is quite complex, there’s a huge amount of value in investing the time by both sides and, as the company is Anglo-Swedish, we’re focusing in the first instance on the UK, Sweden, as well as  the US. 

As an IR team at a mega cap, however, we’re in the fortunate position of having around 40 analysts covering the stock and we speak to many excellent corporate-access teams who do a fantastic job of creating great events for us. Some of these teams and analysts sadly may disappear from view in the coming months and years, but we don’t have the urgent need to look at third-party providers just yet.

Our focus therefore remains on the six principles of AstraZeneca IR, in that we want to be described as proactive, clear, honest, prepared, reliable and knowledgeable.  

Exploiting technology
One of the ways that we can continue to improve is exploiting technology: within the regulatory environment in the sector, it’s difficult to utilise social media in any meaningful way on the IR side. We do, however, take advantage of key platforms that are out there. 

These include the Corporate Access Network, so that we can get closer to investors post-MIFID, plus Wrike for event planning and EventBrite for RSVPs and attendees. We also get the most out of the CRM from Ipreo, especially on the road, where Tripit for itinerary management is excellent. We anticipate that exploiting technological opportunities will become more important post-MIFID II. 

Another area of focus for our efforts has been a significant uplift in the feedback we seek, from regular perception studies to more two-way dialogue with the market. 

But feedback is of limited value unless you act upon it, so we’ve reflected the comments we get in developing additional disclosure and transparency in our results announcements, improved presentation materials and simpler, clearer messages. It’s focusing on these kinds of basics that gets the majority of our attention. 

We’re ready for MIFID II, but we’re ready for a lot more development, activities, technological opportunities and improved levels of service. 

 

Craig Marks is senior director of IR at AstraZeneca.

Published 20 December, 2017

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